Updated: Jul 15, 2020

by Leslie Mark


We’re finally initiating our blog space at IndivisibleKC. It’s an area of the website we hope provides room for more wide-ranging, deliberative and less reactionary conversation about themes, patterns and issues affecting us across the broader Kansas City community and around the country and, even, the world from time to time. Leading off, we’re musing about questions of internal compasses and moral challenges.

At this writing, the Lee’s Summit School District is looking for a new superintendent, just 4 months after the district’s first black leader was awarded a one-year, $750,000 contract extension. Dennis Carpenter had clashed with some members of the school board over an equity plan he had proposed to begin closing the achievement gap for students of color in the affluent suburban community.

As we struggled to make meaning of that news, we learned that the Trump administration’s tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% will cost the federal government $84 billion in 2019 alone. A new budget with an additional $320 billion in spending over 2 years was also announced which, combined with tax cuts for corporations, will cost the United States nearly $2 trillion dollars over the next 10 years.

All that information landed on the same day that Trump proposed rules to end the ability of states to automatically enroll low-income families in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The move will kick over 3 million, low-income families off food stamps, according to the USDA.

It may seem a far reach to pull these disparate strands together in a knot, but they do indeed comprise a Gordian knot. The pattern is revealed in the moral challenge to (not only) our civic and political leadership, but equally to each of us.

The deep-seated difficulty of bringing a privileged white majority in Lee’s Summit to racial equity conversations has played out again. Emotionally charged plaints and historically inaccurate claims were re-made in a coordinated and ultimately – sadly – successful effort to thwart the messenger before systemic issues could be addressed.

This pattern also shows up in the administration targeting “entitlements” because “too many [of the wrong kind of] people are being served.” Decoupling SNAP from Temporary Assistance to Needy Families would, Trump argues, save $9.5 billion over five years, never mind that it could also take free school lunch away from 265,000 students (who are automatically eligible for free lunch if they receive SNAP benefits). Compare that to the $2 trillion Congress already spent on tax breaks for the wealthy.

Not seeing each other as fully human should be a compelling moral dilemma, demanding that we fully engage in the raging civic debates across our political divides. This is not something that we can just leave to our political leaders; rather we must pick up the knot and begin untangling the problems ourselves.

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